Robin Gerster is a respected university- based researcher into recent Australian history. This, his latest book, is a very well-written and very detailed account of Australia’s brief attempt (1946-1952) to occupy and “civilize” its large northern neighbor, Japan. The result, needless to say, was less than successful, though interesting.

Even before the Pacific War, Australian soldiers had a reputation for bravery, initiative, indiscipline and larrikinism (an Australian term that means at times you can indulge in willful havoc). War over, the United States agreed that they could join in the occupation of Japan as members of a British Commonwealth force (BCOF), which they would command. The Australian component, which would eventually reach some 17,000, was made to base itself in the unprepossessing, bombed-out port and industrial city of Kure, near Hiroshima.

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